TCWNN#7: RAW Is SNL.

Yesterday, I turned 31 years old. I figure that’s old enough to make a certain decision. A decision that’s been awhile in coming. A decision that will pretty much end what has been a staple of the last 15 or so years of my life.

I’m going to stop watching Monday Night Raw.

Not for ever or anything, but just for a little while. Because I need a break. I just feel like 31 years old is way too old to be talked down to the way the WWE’s flagship program does to it’s audience. Hell, NINE is way too old for some of the junk they put on the screen every week (and yes, yes, I know some wise acre is out there saying 31 is too old to be watching wrestling, period). Santino Marella calling Chavo Guerrero and Chris Masters the Geico Cavemen is not keeping me glued to the screen every week (it also doesn’t make a single, solitary lick of sense).  Instead of something for everybody, Raw has something for nobody these days. And quite frankly, I feel too old to put up with it. And the best way to express that to company is to just not watch the show.

I’m a pro-wrestling fan. I want to watch pro-wrestling. I don’t think that’s a complicated equation.  In a pinch, I’ll even put up with a reasonable amount of sports entertainment in my wrestling. But the WWE’s target audience isn’t wrestling fans anymore, and the sports entertainment is neither.  I don’t really know who the target audience is; allegedly it’s children, since that’s who wants to see John Cena and Rey Mysterio the most, but half the “jokes” are above a child’s head (and the other half would insult the intelligence of said child), and the guest hosts… despite what he may say about his motives for coming on the show (education reform), there is nothing child-friendly about the Reverend Al Sharpton.

The never ending parade of guest hosts has people saying Raw is SNL, and while it has it’s moments, SNL hasn’t been consistently good, let alone a “stay home and plan your night around it” part of our culture, in years.  Is that really the comparison they want for their flagship show, for the show they’ve gone out of their way to push on us as better than all their other shows? Arguably the only genuinely successful celebrity host they’ve had was Bob Barker, but even then, it felt like one long SNL skit, because well… it WAS one long SNL skit.  Everything revolved around working in bits from the Price Is Right. Which was entertaining, but really did nothing to further storylines or sell a PPV. It basically existed in a void.

We’ve only been graced with actual wrestler hosts a mere handful of times, to middling effect. Ted DiBiase and Dusty Rhodes at least helped directly further angles (when Dusty wasn‘t cracking jokes with DX, anyways) but Sgt Slaughter just insulted the Canadian fans off and on for 2 hours. It was pointless. Trish Stratus was pretty much only there for a nostalgia match. Even when the guest hosts are fans, it’s still a pandering mess. Two hours and change spent watching Seth Green or Freddie Prinze Jr essentially reenact the times they spent as children playing with LJN dolls? Good for them and everything, but how is this is an entertaining part of my week anymore?

It’s not. I wish it was, but it’s not. It’s not the fault of the wrestlers; there are very few guys on the roster who I can honestly say I don’t want showing up on television every week, but they just aren’t DOING anything. They’re running in circles. A five minute or less match between Swagger and Bourne just isn’t worth staying home for, and there’s only so much  the awesomeness of Chris Jericho’s misanthropic character can do to bring the show up to a respectable level of entertainment.

The irony of course, is that this whole Raw is SNL/child friendly thing is just an obvious attempt by the WWE to gain respectability as a “legitimate” form of popular entertainment, at least in part.  But by dumbing down the product so much and essentially wiping out any actual entertainment to be had in viewing it, Raw stays exactly where it’s always been in the eyes of the majority of the public: a low brow fake sport for those with low intelligence. Only now it’s a low brow fake sport that features cameos from low tier celebrities.

ECW, Superstars, and Smackdown all maintain a respectable balance between actual pro-wrestling and sports entertainment (though Smackdown has lost a step or two in the weeks since the returns of Undertaker and Batista- I am not saying it‘s necessarily the presence of either, mind you, it‘s just a reference point). I’m perfectly fine watching just those three. Along with Classics On Demand, that’s more than enough WWE owned entertainment for my life right now, not to mention whatever Ring of Honor I can get my hands on (TNA is NOT an option for me. It just isn’t. But that’s another column.)

So I’m taking an extended hiatus from Raw, in hopes that absence will make the heart grow fonder.

Wish me luck.

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